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A federal judge in Idaho last Thursday invalidated $125 million in oil and gas leases on public lands in Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah because the Trump administration failed to give the public adequate time for comments on them. The ruling protects the greater sage grouse, a species for which the Obama administration implemented a set of wide-ranging protection plans, including foregoing oil and gas leases on sage grouse habitat to keep the bird off the endangered species list — but it does not extend beyond the 67 million acres of sage grouse habitat under federal management.
Why This Matters: Score one for the sage grouse! Under the ruling,nearly 1 million acres’ worth of fast-tracked public lands leases have been canceled. Wyoming and an alliance of western energy producers argued that canceling the leases would require the government to refund the full value of the leases but the Judge decided that allowing them to go forward despite the procedural flaws would incentivize the government to approve massive potentially illegal projects. The sage grouse had only narrowly avoided being listed under the Endangered Species Act despite sharp population declines across their 11-state range due to development, disease, drought, and wildfires. The Trump administration can try to cut corners rolling back Obama-era conservation policies, but they will be held accountable to the law at least for a time.
President Trump trumpeted his trade deal with China, but so far it has been a bust, according to The Wall Street Journal — the Chinese have not purchased nearly the amount of energy (in terms of total dollars) as they promised — only $2B in oil and gas purchases against a commitment of $25B for this year.
A federal judge in Washington, DC ruled yesterday that the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down and empty all its oil until the government completes an environmental review of the pipeline’s impacts, giving the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies downstream, a huge victory. Similarly, late in the day, the Supreme Court refused to overturn the order of a district judge that shut down construction of parts of the Keystone XL pipeline so it is also blocked for now.
Why It Matters: The Dakota and Keystone XL news is greatly tempered by the fact that numerous other pipeline projects can go ahead despite their inadequate permit unless they are individually challenged in court and blocked.
Yesterday, Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, announced they were ending a 600-mile natural gas project that would have cost at least $8 billion to complete. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, Dominion and Duke canceled the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the face of mounting regulatory uncertainty caused by a federal court […]
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